Apr 27, 2012

What do Hawaii and Japan have in common... NOODLE SOUP!

Hawaiian Saimin with Edamame and Kamaboko
Click on photo to enlarge
Hawaii has saimin and Japan has ramen, but basically they are the same thing... noodle soup. The most popular noodle soup in Hawaii is saimin, recognized as a traditional state dish. Both saimin and ramen have both become “soul food” for Hawaii and Japan. It is believed that Hawaiian saimin was created during the plantation era in Hawaii when Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Hawaiian, and Portuguese laborers returned from the sugarcane and pineapple fields, they had communal meals. Each nationality would contribute something to the pot, giving birth to saimin, a soup dish made up of soft wheat egg noodles served in hot dashi (Japanese stock) garnished with green onions. Other items may be added such as, kamaboko (fish cake), char siu (pork), sliced Spam, linguica (sausage), and nori (seaweed), to create this uniquely Hawaiian noodle soup. Saimin is so popular here in Hawaii that it is served everywhere, even at McDonald's.

Ramen is one of Japan's most popular dishes and commonly eaten Japanese food. It originally came from China. A simple bowl of Chuka Soba, egg noodles in a broth made from chicken stock seasoned with soy sauce, became popular for its taste, reasonable price, and fast service. In the 1980s, ramen shops started popping up everywhere as chefs used this simple bowl of soup as a blank canvas to create distinct varieties depending on geographic origin, variety of noodles, and soup bases. Miso ramen is made in Northern Japan. It has a miso base which is combined with chicken or fish stock. The stock is cooked with a thick, wavy noodle and is often topped with corn, bean sprouts, green onions and butter. The second variety comes from Tokyo. It has a light chicken broth base mixed with soy sauce and mirin (rice wine). This broth is served with a thin, chewy noodle and topped with ginger, kombu (kelp), bamboo shoots and chopped green onions. The third variety comes from Southern Japan and is called Tonkotsu. It has a rich pork broth with thin, firm noodles, garnished with roasted garlic. Ramen is commonly eaten in Japan with the head down near the bowl, then you "slurp" in the hot noodles. The air intake helps to cool down the noodles and it supposedly brings out the flavor of the soup. Today, this simple noodle soup has become the cornerstone of Hawaiian and Japanese fast food and millions of bowls are consumed every day.

Health Note: Instant noodles are dried or precooked noodles fused with oil, and are often sold with a packet of flavoring that is high in salt and msg (monosodium glutamate). Instant noodles continues to swell in popularity all over the world. The world market for instant noodles is forecast to exceed 154 billion packs by the year 2017, driven by factors such as minimal cooking time, wide variety of taste and flavor profiles, and low cost of instant noodle products. While many of these fast foods are delicious, a serving of saimin or ramen is high in carbohydrates and low in vitamins and minerals. It is recommended by doctors that you add nutrients to your instant noodles such as chicken or eggs and fresh vegetables. It is my recommendation that you take the time to make your own chicken, beef, fish or pork stock and not use these flavor packets, which are not good for you. Stay healthy my friends.

Basic Asian Chicken Stock
Making homemade stock is so easy and inexpensive. Store bought chicken stock is not good for saimin. These stocks are prepared for American dishes, not Asian. Also, avoid bouillon cubes or granules if at all possible. They are very high in sodium and don't have the flavor of homemade. This stock is great in saimin, instead of buying already made stock or using those instant flavor packets.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 pounds chicken wings, or other chicken parts
1 unpeeled ginger, sliced thin and lightly smashed (about 1 inch)
2 medium scallions, halved lengthwise and lightly smashed
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed, paper removed
6 whole peppercorns
2 quarts boiling water
1 teaspoon salt

Using a cleaver or a heavy knife, chop the chicken wings at the joints. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken wings to the pot; sauté until both sides are lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl. Sauté the remaining chicken wing pieces. Return the first batch of chicken pieces to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes. Stir in the ginger, scallions, garlic, peppercorns, and cook for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the boiling water and salt. Return to a simmer, then cover and barely simmer until the stock is rich and flavorful, about 2 to 3 hours. Strain the stock; discard the solids. Before using, defat the stock. The stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen for several months. Makes 2 quarts.

Hawaiian Saimin
with Edamame and Kamaboko 

4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 (8-ounce) package dried Japanese soba noodles*
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Toppings (see suggestions below)

* Soba noodles can be found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores or in Japanese food specialty stores.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add 4 quarts of water and salt; bring to a boil. Add soba noodles and boil 4 to 6 minutes until al dente. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse under warm, running water. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add chicken broth and ginger; bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and your favorite toppings; simmer for 5 minutes longer or until toppings are cooked. Remove from heat. Place cooked soba noodles in a large soup bowl; spoon broth mixture (with toppings) over the top and serve. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Topping Suggestions:
Edamame (cooked soy beans)
Kamaboko (fish cakes)
Sliced Spam
Cha siu or baked ham slices
Roast Pork slices
Sliced carrots
Shredded napa cabbage
Chopped bok choy
Sliced hard cooked egg
Sliced mushrooms
Scrambled or fried egg
Sliced green onions or scallions
Chinese parsley (Cilantro)
Cooked small shrimp

Japanese Shrimp Ramen
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 cup asparagus, sliced into 1” pieces
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup raw shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 (8-ounce) package dried Japanese soba noodles*

* Soba noodles can be found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores or in Japanese food specialty stores.

In a medium saute pan add the sesame oil, heat on medium and add the onion, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in 1 or 2 tablespoons of soy sauce depending on your taste, and the chicken stock. Cook to a simmer. Add in the shrimp and asparagus and simmer lightly for about 2 minutes. Add in the noodles and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately topped with the bean sprouts, and a little chili oil on top if you like it spicy. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Apr 19, 2012

Over-the-top with Pears

Bosc Pears
Click on photo to enlarge
The pear has been enjoyed around the world for a long time. As a matter of fact, pears are one of the world's oldest cultivated and beloved fruits. There are over 3000 known varieties of pears including Anjou, Bartlett, Comice and Bosc. 

In general, standard fruit trees such as you would find in the mainland U.S. will grow fine in Hawaii. However, they will not produce fruit. Such fruit trees, as apples, pears, peaches, etc. require a dormant period, like winter, to reset the production cycle. If this does not happen there will be no fruit produced. Fortunately for us, pears are picked hard, then shipped to Hawaii from Oregon and Washington, where they have been cultivated since the 1800's. I say fortunately because the pear actually improves in texture and flavor after being picked. 

If you want to buy a pear and eat it right away, press the neck of the pear. If it yields to pressure, then it's ripe, sweet and juicy. Otherwise, store pears at room temperature until they ripen, then put them in the refrigerator. My favorite pear for cooking is the Bosc pear, but the most beautiful pear in my opinion is the Red Anjou. The Bosc pear has an overall brownish russet skin color with a classic pear shape and a heady pear aroma. The reason chefs like cooking with this pear is that it keeps its shape and does not get soggy, plus it has a honey-sweet flavor. Bosc pears are available from Fall through late Spring here in Hawaii.

Spiced Bosc Pears
This is a simple poached pear dessert recipe that is easy to make, elegant and delicious.

4 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored, leaving the stems on
1 lemon, squeezed
2 cups water
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
mint leaves to garnish

Combine orange juice, water, sugar and honey in a large sauce pan. Stir well to mix and bring to a simmer. Add vanilla, nutmeg, ginger powder and lemon juice. Add the pears and simmer for 30 minutes, turning pears to make sure all surfaces have been cooked. Remove from pan and keep warm. Let the remaining liquid boil until syrup thickens. With a small, sharp knife, cut pears into 1/4 inch slices, trying not to cut through the neck of the pair halves, then carefully fan out the bottom part of the pear and arrange halves, cut side down, in a serving dish. Pour syrup over pears, garnish the top of the pear halves with a mint leave and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Pear Sorbet with Red Wine
The flavor of the pears and wine mixed with a beautiful red color makes this an elegant frozen dessert.

2 1/2 pounds ripe Bosc pears
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups good Burgundy red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Peel, core and quarter the pears. Place them in a medium saucepan with the sugar, red wine, water, cinnamon stick and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the pears are soft and translucent. This will take 15 to 20 minutes if the pears are ripe and soft to begin with, or about 30 minutes if they’re somewhat hard. Add the pepper. Using tongs, remove the pears to a bowl. Remove the cinnamon stick from the poaching liquid, and discard. Turn up the heat, and reduce until the mixture has the consistency of a thin syrup. Place the pears, in batches, in a blender, or place all of them in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Purée until smooth. Slowly add the poaching liquid and the lemon juice, and blend together. Transfer to a bowl, and chill. Meanwhile, place a 1-quart container in the freezer. Freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the chilled container, and freeze for at least two hours before serving. If frozen solid, allow to soften in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes. Makes one quart, serving six.

Spiced Sherry Pear Cake
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
pinch salt
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup sherry
Frosting if desired, but not necessary

Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together dry ingredients and mix into the creamed butter. Fold in pears, nuts, vanilla and sherry. Spoon into a buttered and floured 9”x13” baking dish. Bake in a 350˚F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until a pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool and frost, if desired, or leave plain.
Beat 1 cup softened butter until creamy. Beat in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 cup sherry until mixture is light and fluffy. Makes 12 servings.

Hawaiian Pear Bread
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. In a separate bowl, combine sugars, oil, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and pears. Mix in dry ingredients. Fold in coconut, raisins and nuts. Pour into 2 lightly greased loaf pans or one greased bundt pan. Bake for 55 minutes until done. Makes 2 loaves or 12-15 servings.

Hawaiian Sweetbread Pudding with Pears
1 pound loaf Hawaiian sweetbread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup raisins, split into 1/4 cup
1/2 cup shredded coconut, split into 1/4 cup
2 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
4 teaspoons cinnamon, split into 2 teaspoons
3 cups milk
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 sticks butter

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place 1/2 of sweet bread pieces in a 9”x13” roasting pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup coconut, 1/2 cup pears and 2 teaspoons cinnamon onto bread pieces. Continue layering with the remaining sweetbread, raisins, coconut, pears and cinnamon. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well. Pour evenly over the sweetbread. Dot with butter. Place in oven for 1 hour. Makes 12-15 servings.

Pear Gingerbread Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of mace
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup light molasses
1 cup cold water
One, firm-ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line, or lightly butter 12 standard muffin cups. Whisk flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, mace and salt in medium bowl to blend. In a second larger bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, molasses, and eggs. Stir in the cold water. Add half of the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in the diced pears. Bake gingerbread until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes (check after 20 minutes). Set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the muffin tin and allow to cool completely on the rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Pear-Pancetta Pupu with Goat Cheese
12 thin slices pancetta (about 1/3 lb.)
3 firm-ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears
1/2 (4-oz.) package goat cheese, crumbled
freshly cracked pepper
Garnish: 12 fresh thyme sprigs

Arrange pancetta slices in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool 10 minutes or until crisp. Meanwhile, core pears with an apple corer. Cut pear crosswise into 12 thin 1/8-inch thick rings. Arrange on a serving platter. Top each slice of pear with a pancetta slice and crumbled goat cheese; sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle with honey just before serving. Garnish each with a small fresh thyme sprig. Makes 12 pupu servings.

Pickled Red Onions and Pears
This side dish is great served with barbequed meats, and in potato salad, or just as a tangy snack.

2 large red onions, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings
1 firm-ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole cloves
a small, dried chile pepper
1 thinly sliced clove of garlic

Put cut onions and pears into two pint sized sterilized canning jars. In a large, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings, chile and garlic until boiling. Add the onion and pear slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer the onions and the liquid into jars then refrigerate until ready to use. Note: The red onions will turn everything a nice pink color. Best used within a week, but will keep refrigerated for several months. Makes about 2 pints.

Pear Galette
Click on photo to enlarge
Pear Galette
6 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, sliced in half and cored, then thinly sliced about 1/4"
2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-14 ounce package of refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 425˚F. You’ll need two 9 inch pie pans sprayed with cooking spray, or you can make this on a large foil lined cookie sheet, or a silicone mat as shown in photo. Unroll pie crust onto pie pans or a sheet pan or silicone mat. Carefully lay the pear slices in an overlapping circle on top of crust so the thin neck end is in the middle of the crust, leaving a 1-inch boarder around the edge, being careful not to break the delicate pears. Sprinkle pears with flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Spoon any remaining pear juice over the slices. Fold edges of crust over filling, pleating and pressing dough together to hold shape. Brush crust edges with egg white; sprinkle with more sugar. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375˚F. Bake 20 minutes more, or until crust is browned and fruit is juicy and tender. Cool 10 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. Note: Sometimes these pears take a week or more to ripen properly. I use a potato peeler to peel the pears, and a teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop out the seeds. Slice pears lengthwise, not across. Makes 2 Galettes, enough for 8 servings.

Ginger & Spice-Pear Phyllo Cups
Simple little phyllo butter cups, filled with pears, ginger and spice, perfect for the end of a holiday meal. 

Ingredients for the phyllo cups:
6 (13-by-17-inch) phyllo sheets
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted

Ingredients for the pears:
1 pound Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 2 medium)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied or crystallized ginger
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Ingredients for the cream:
3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Procedure for the phyllo cups:
Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Arrange a sheet of phyllo on a large cutting board (be sure to cover the remaining phyllo sheets with a slightly damp paper towel or plastic wrap) and brush the top with melted butter. Arrange another sheet on top of the first sheet and repeat, alternating butter and phyllo, until there are 6 layers. Brush the top layer with butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into 12 approximately 4-by-4-inch squares. Fit 1 square snugly into each well of a 12-well muffin pan, gently pressing the phyllo into the bottom and up the sides of each well. Bake until the dough is lightly browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. When the cups are cool, remove them from the pan and set aside. The cups can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Procedure for the pears:
Peel, halve, and core the pears. Cut into medium dice (you should have about 2 cups) and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Sprinkle the brown sugar over top and cook until the mixture is bubbling and the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved pears, ginger, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is caramelized and the pears have just begun to release their juices and are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. (The sugar may seize—or become lumpy—at first, but it will redistribute itself.)
Stir in the walnuts and set aside.

Procedure for the cream:
Place the cream, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the sour cream and whisk until just incorporated. To serve, divide the gingered pears and their juices among the phyllo cups and top with the whipped cream. Serve immediately. Makes 12 servings.

Apr 6, 2012

Are You Dressing Your Salad Properly?

Salad Dressing
Click on photo to make larger
Eating a fresh and healthy salad EVERY DAY, with a variety of ingredients, is a great way to keep you healthy, but are you dressing your salad properly? 

For years, too many people in Hawaii have been buying bottled dressings for their salads instead of making their own, so I say to myself, WHY? Well of course I know it's easier just to buy it already made but what is it doing to your body? Homemade salad dressings couldn't be easier to make, so stop paying huge prices for bottled dressings with too much sugar, salt, and chemicals in them that your body doesn't need. 

Mayonnaise is another popular condiment here in Hawaii, and elsewhere. As you know, it is commonly used on salads and other foods, unfortunately mayonnaise is highly fattening. Just one tablespoon contains between 50 - 100 calories and between 5 - 10 grams of fat. It is loaded with high amounts of preservatives, acids, modified starch and sugars. A better choice would be to make your own dressings at home using a good quality, extra virgin olive oil. It tastes good and it actually protects the heart and rids the body of bad cholesterol. If you start with olive oil you can't go wrong. 

Also remember that a good dressing should complement the salad, and not overpower it. If you go easy on the dressing, you'll lose the fat but not the flavor. You can keep your homemade salad dressings in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Here are some easy to make, homemade salad dressings to properly dress your salads... give them a try, and be healthy!

Mayonnaise Made At Home
2 whole eggs
10 fluid ounces of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of dry English mustard powder
1 crushed clove of garlic
salt and pepper

Place the eggs into the blender or food processor, along with the mustard, garlic, salt and pepper and blend together. Pour all of the oil into the blender in a steady stream whilst the machine is operating, so that it is immediately whisked into the egg yolk mixture. Switch off the machine and taste the mayonnaise. Add the vinegar and any extra seasoning to taste and whisk together one last time.
Cooks Note: For a blue cheese mayonnaise, add 8 ounces of crumbled blue cheese into the mayonnaise at the end and mix well. To make a spicy mayonnaise, increase the dry mustard powder to 2 teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and a few drops of Tabasco.

Ranch Dressing, Revisited
A lighter, less sweet version of bottled Ranch dressing.
⅓ cup buttermilk
⅓ cup homemade mayonnaise
⅓ cup plain low-fat yogurt
½ teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons green onions (whites and greens) or chives, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a medium-small bowl and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup.

Guacamole Salad Dressing
This dressing is great on sliced tomatoes, or on your favorite green salad, or try using it as a dip for shrimp. I like to skewer pieces cold imitation crab (surimi) and cooked shrimp and drizzle or brush this dressing over the top for a delicious appetizer. Another good thing is to put this dressing on top of mahi-mahi fish tacos... sooo goood!

2 ripe avocados, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 minced garlic clove
2 tablespoons cilantro (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put chopped avocado in a small bowl or food processor, and mash until smooth. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole dressing to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups depending on the size of your avocados.
Note: Remember that much of this recipe is done to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients. Start with this recipe and adjust to your taste.

Japanese Style Salad Dressing
1 piece peeled ginger root
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove of garlic
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce

In a blender or food processor, purée until fairly smooth. Makes 6 servings.

Thai Salad Dressing
Juice of 4 limes
2 teaspoon fish sauce
4 cloves of garlic finely minced
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon sriracha hot chili sauce (or more to taste)

Use a fork to whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Spoon over cold cooked mung bean noodles that have been topped with a mixture of chopped fresh romaine, red bell pepper, carrot, cucumber slivers and topped with mango slices and mint. Makes 2 servings.

Tuscan Italian Dressing
3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, or 3/4 teaspoon fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, or 3/4 teaspoon fresh
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

Place the mayonnaise, vinegar, water, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, and black pepper into a blender. Blend for 2 minutes, then pour into a large jar, and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Shake well before using. Makes 8 servings.

Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well until you have a creamy mixture, or use a blender. place dressing in a container and put into the refrigerator until ready to use. Shake well before each use. Makes about 1 cup.

Sweet Ginger Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, vinegar, sesame seeds, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Serve over your favorite salad greens with fresh fruit, like sliced fresh pears.

Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette
1 small shallot coarsely chopped (or use 2 tablespoons chopped red onion)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or use 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In food processor or mini-processor use metal blade and chop shallot and thyme. Add olives, vinegar, and mustard and pulse until pureed. With machine going, slowly add olive oil through tube and continue to process until dressing is well emulsified. Serve with romaine lettuce with a healthy amount of Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.

Basil Vinaigrette
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the basil, garlic, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until everything is mixed up and chopped into tiny bits. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture and process until emulsified. Serve on a bed of leaf lettuce with sliced tomatoes and shredded mozzarella cheese on top.

Creamy Mango Dressing
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
(or 1 1/4 cups frozen mango cubes, thawed)
4 teaspoons nonfat plain yogurt
3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In blender, purée mango, yogurt, and vinegar until silky smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve over a fresh mango salad with baby spinach leaves, topped with thinly slices prosciutto. Makes 4 servings.

Papaya Dressing
1 firm-ripe papaya (10 to 12 oz), halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
chopped toasted macadamia nuts

Scrape seeds from papaya and coarsely chop enough seeds to measure 2 tablespoons. Discard remaining seeds, then peel papaya halves and slice. Press ginger in a fine-mesh sieve or a garlic press into a small bowl to extract juice (about 1 teaspoon), discarding pulp. Whisk in chopped papaya seeds, onion, tarragon, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Divide watercress and papaya slices among 4 plates and drizzle with dressing and top with chopped toasted macadamia nuts. Makes 4 servings.

Cucumber Feta Salad Dressing
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup drained feta (about 4 ounces), at room temperature
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 small garlic clove, chopped and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chop enough of cucumber to measure 1 cup and in a blender purée with feta, yogurt, and garlic until smooth. Transfer dressing to a bowl and season with pepper and salt. Chill dressing, covered, until cold, about 30 minutes. Serve with romaine lettuce or fresh baby spinach topped off with ripe red tomatoes. Makes about 1 cup.

Raspberry Salad Dressing
1 (10-ounce) jar seedless raspberry fruit spread or preserves
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Microwave raspberry spread in a microwave-safe bowl at LOW (30%) power 1 minute or until melted. Whisk in vinegar and olive oil until blended; let cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 2 cups.

Romaine Salad with Raspberry Dressing: Combine 1 head romaine lettuce, torn; 1 small red onion, sliced; 1 cup crumbled feta cheese; 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans; and 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled. Serve with Raspberry Salad Dressing.

Honey French Dressing
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salad oil (I use canola oil)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon onion powder, or minced fresh onion
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, or minced fresh garlic

To make the dressing, mix all ingredients in a small bowl, or in a blender. Chill before using. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Apr 3, 2012

Long live rosemary, queen of the garden!

Rosemary, "Tuscan Blue"
Click on photo to enlarge
The rosemary plant is a member of the mint family and is native to the Mediterranean area. There are at least 24 types of upright rosemary and another 12 types of creeping rosemary varieties. Rosemary now grows widely in other parts of the world, including Hawaii. It thrives in our warm and sunny climate. Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that can grow to a height of 6 feet. The long, needle-like leaves are dark green on top and pale beneath. The small flowers range in color from pale blue, pink or white, depending on the variety. If you like to cook with rosemary then you want to look for these varieties, 'Miss Jessup', 'Tuscan Blue' or 'Spice Island', which are all excellent choices for cooks. These large plants have large leaves that are very fragrant and hold their flavor when cooked or dried. I have 'Tuscan Blue' growing in my yard and it is terrific to cook with. I simply snip off pieces of the stem as I need it. It's ornamental, it's fragrant and it's delicious. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible. The small flowers can be used in salads and as garnishes. Gardeners will find an added benefit to growing their own rosemary, as it is a natural insect and deer repellant. I happen to know first hand that the deer on Moloka'i will not eat it, so I planted it all around my vegetable garden to keep them out. Many local hunters have found that this fragrant plant is great to use as an herb on venison, pork or chicken, simply add olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, then throw springs of fresh rosemary on the hot coals of the grill to add even more flavor to the meat as it cooks.

Growing your own plants is easy to do. Simple snip about a 2 inch cutting from the soft, new growth of an established plant. Remove the leaves from the bottom inch and dip that tip into a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones can be found in any garden center, like Hikiola or Ace Hardware here on Moloka'i. Carefully place the dipped end into a container of dampened, sterile seed starting mix. Place the container in a warm spot with indirect sunlight. Mist the cuttings daily and make sure the soil does not dry out. In about 2-3 weeks, test for root growth by very gently tugging on the cuttings. Once your cuttings have roots, transplant into individual pots about 3-4 inches in diameter. Pinch off the very top of the cutting to encourage it to develop branches.

Rosemary is also used for its fragrance in soaps and other cosmetics. Traditionally, rosemary has been used medicinally to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems. It is also believed to increase menstrual flow, act as an abortifacient (causing miscarriage), increase urine flow, and treat indigestion.

Cooks note: When measuring dried herbs versus fresh in recipes, chefs generally use a 1:3 dried:fresh ratio for converting their herb measurements. For example, if your recipe called for one tablespoon of dried rosemary then you would use 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary. A smart cook will only use these conversions as a basic guide and will let taste really guide them in the kitchen. Dried herbs can very a lot in taste depending on how long they have been packaged. If you just dried your own herbs in your kitchen they are going to have a much stronger taste than if you bought them in the store a year ago. Likewise, fresh herbs vary in taste depending on how truly fresh they are. When making the substitution, add a little bit at a time and do a taste test to make sure that you're happy with the way it's coming out.

Baked Fish and Potatoes
with Rosemary and Garlic

1 pound new potatoes, peeled, washed, and cut into wedges
(You will need an oven-to-table baking dish that can accommodate both the fish
and the potatoes in one layer)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
fine sea salt
black pepper
a 2-pound fillet from a firm-fleshed fish, such as grouper, striped bass,
red snapper, or mahi mahi
2 tablespoons fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs

Turn on the oven to 400°F. Place the potato wedges in the baking dish, pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over them, add 2 sprigs of rosemary, all the garlic cloves, and salt, and pepper. Toss thoroughly. Put the dish in the preheated oven. After 15 minutes, remove the dish to turn the potatoes over, then put it back in the oven. Cook until the potatoes feel tender when tested with a fork, another 10 minutes or so. Remove the dish from the oven. Push the potatoes to the sides, making room in the center for the fish fillet to lie flat. Wash the fish fillet, pat it dry with paper towels, and lay it flat in the dish, skin side down. Strip the leaves from the remaining rosemary sprigs, scatter them over the fish, add salt and pepper, and sprinkle the bread crumbs and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the fillet. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 14 minutes. Let the dish settle out of the oven for 3 to 4 minutes before bringing it to the table. Makes 4 servings.

Prime Rib Roast Beef with
Fresh Garlic, Thyme, and Rosemary

1-5 pound prime rib roast
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Place the roast fat side up in a roasting pan and pour red wine over the top. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme to form a paste-like consistency. Spread the mixture over the fatty layer of the roast, and let it sit out for about 30 minutes or until it is at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 500˚F. Bake the roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, and then reduce the temperature to 325˚F, and continue roasting for an additional 60 minutes. You may want to check the temperature of the meat with a meat thermometer 20 minutes or so before you expect it to be done to be sure you don't overcook the meat. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the roast and the amount of fat it has. The internal temperature of the roast should be around 120˚F for medium-rare when you take it out of the oven. Just remember that the meat will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven, so it is better to have the meat a little on the rare side. Take it out of the oven, cover it with foil, and allow the roast to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving so the meat can retain its juices. Make gravy by pouring the drippings into a saucepan. Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water. Stir until the mixture is smooth and pour into the drippings; bring to a boil. Stir and let simmer until the sauce thickens. You can also just serve the drippings as au jus without thickening it. Makes 8 servings.

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Rosemary,
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
1 Free range organic chicken
A few sprigs rosemary, cut into 1 inch lengths (Kumu Farms)
A few sprigs thyme (Kumu Farms)
2 garlic cloves, cut into sticks
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/3 stick of butter, softened
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

15 baby carrots, leaves removed, (Kumu Farms)
A big handful of pole beans and/or bush beans, (Kumu Farms)

Take out the chicken from a refrigerator about half an hour before cooking. In the meantime, prepare the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Wash the chicken inside out and pat dry. Lay the bird chest up in a roasting pan and rub it with butter and olive oil before giving a gentle massage to the bird. Cut ten or so slits in the chest and insert a piece of rosemary and garlic in each slit. Fill the cavity with the rest of the garlic and rosemary.

Roast the chicken in the oven for about 50 minutes, basting often (spoon the grease from the bottom of the pan and pour over the chicken) about every 25 minutes. Then add the vegetables and thyme around the chicken, and baste the grease over them. Continue roasting until thoroughly cooked for about another 40 minutes or longer depending on the size of a chicken. A meat thermometer should reach 165˚F.

Take the pan out of the oven and transfer the chicken and the vegetables to a serving plate. Cover the bird with a piece of aluminum foil and rest for 15 minutes. Reserve the grease from the pan for making gravy sauce (recipe below). Makes 2 or 3 servings depending on how hungry you are.

Chicken Gravy
The grease from the bottom of the roasting pan
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt and pepper

Combine the grease, chicken broth and wine in a medium pan over medium heat. Reduce to half. Add flour in a small amount and stir well till your favourite consistency is achieved. Adjust with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the rosemary garlic roast chicken and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes (recipe below).

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes are my favorite food of all foods and rosemary mashed potatoes are the best way to eat them.

8 large yukon gold potatoes (about 4 pounds), peeled and quartered
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, cubed
3, 4 inch long pieces of fresh rosemary sprigs
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes and fresh rosemary sprigs in a large pot; add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and discard rosemary, leaving cooked potatoes in the pot. Add the cream, butter, nutmeg, pepper and remaining salt; beat until smooth. I like to leave a few lumps in my mashed potatoes, so it doesn't have the texture of instant mashed potatoes. Makes 8 servings.

Rosemary/Citrus Spice Blend
grated zest of 3 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
grated zest of 2 oranges (about 4 tablespoons)
fresh rosemary leaves from 5 (5-inch) branches (about 7 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarse sea salt

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process lemon and orange zest, rosemary leaves, garlic powder and pepper until finely chopped, about 1 minute. Add salt and pulse until salt forms smaller crystals and mixture is blended, about 30 seconds. Spread mixture thinly on a cookie sheet and put into a 250˚F oven for 45 minutes to remove moisture from the spice blend. After 45 minutes, turn oven off and leave the salt blend in the oven until it cools. When cool, pack into glass jars with tight-fitting lids and store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months. This blend is great sprinkled in rice or potatoes while cooking, on roast chicken, grilled meats, fish, or steamed vegetables. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.